BRITISH Formula 1 team Williams Racing has been sold to New York-based investment firm Dorilton Capital.
The news came shortly after Williams confirmed it had signed the new Concorde Agreement, ensuring its continued participation in Formula 1.
Dorilton bought the team, as well as a minority stake in the related Williams Advanced Engineering business, for US $179.5 million ($250 miilion Aussie dollars).
It offers industrial and healthcare services.
The sale marks a big change for Williams.
It was the last of the old-school independent teams, owned by its namesake family since its founding in 1977.
Founder Frank Williams is still nominally the team principal, although his daughter, deputy team principal Claire Williams, has taken over day-to-day management.
“This may be the end of an era for Williams as a family owned team, but we know it is in good hands,” Claire Williams said.
“The sale ensures the team’s survival but most importantly will provide a path to success.”
Williams is one of F1’s oldest and most successful teams, but it has seen a major drop in competitiveness over the last two decades.
The team has nine constructors’ championships, seven drivers’ championships, and 114 race wins to its credit.
At its height, Williams had star drivers like Piers Courage, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, and was known for technical innovations like active suspension.
Frank Williams was not from wealthy stock.
He founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966, funded by his work as a travelling grocery salesman.
He bought a Brabham Formula 1 chassis, which Courage drove throughout the 1969 season, twice finishing in second place.
Williams was once so short on cash that he conducted team business from a telephone box after his office phone was disconnected for unpaid accounts.
The team’s first win came when Clay Regazzoni drove the Cosworth-powered Williams FW07 to victory at the 1979 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Their first Drivers’ Championship and Constructors’ Championship both came in 1980, with the Australian Alan Jones winning the drivers’ title.
Between 1981 and 1997, the team won six more drivers’ championships and eight more constructors’ championships.
Frank Williams was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 1986, and received a knighthood in 1999.
He was also made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by France, for his work on Renault F1’s engines and he received the Wheatcroft Trophy in 2008, in recognition of his significant contributions to motorsport.
Williams, however, has been in a wheelchair since a car crash in France in 1986, which rendered him tetraplegic.
Despite his early financial battles, he was reported to have had a net worth in 2016 of $194 million.
In 2010, he was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and in 2012, a new road in Didcot, Oxfordshire, was named “Sir Frank Williams Avenue.”
But the team has not had a win since 2012 and hasn’t finished on the podium since nabbing third place at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix with Lance Stroll at the wheel.
At that stage Lance’s father, Lawrence Stroll, had bought a major interest in Williams, but then went on to buy the more successful Force India team, rebranding it as Racing Point.
Williams lost title sponsor Rokit just before the start of this season, and undertook a strategic review in May to determine a new source of funding.
Its cars have become a fixture at the back of the field as the team struggles to match better-funded rivals.
The team scored just one point last season, its worst-ever finish.
At present, Williams is last in the 2020 constructors’ standings, with no points scored in any of the six races run so far.
Current team drivers are George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.
Earlier this week, Williams confirmed that it had signed the new Concorde Agreement, committing the team to Formula 1 through to 2025.
The agreement between teams, F1 management, and the FIA sanctioning body sets a direction for the series, which in this case includes substantial rules changes and budget caps intended to decrease the gap between the biggest teams and the rest of the field.
New owners Dorilton says it works ‘actively’with existing management teams, recognising that long-term business success is the result of a team effort.
“We partner with companies that are led by strong management teams and have a successful history and culture.
“We firmly believe in our companies continuing with the elements that have made them successful.